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Trigeminal Neuralgia: The Basics

  • All
  • Overview
  • Symptoms & Causes
  • Testing & Diagnosis
  • Nerve Pain

What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a complicated term for a simple, but painful condition—facial pain. We all have a trigeminal nerve that runs down each side of our heads and splits into three branches. These nerves control sensations on different parts of your face. Trigeminal neuralgia can be felt anywhere from the forehead to the jaw on one or both sides of the face.

Where is the trigeminal nerve?

The trigeminal nerves start in the brain and one runs down each side of the face. They then divide into three branches: ophthalmic branch, mandibular branch, and maxillary branch. The trigeminal nerve allows for facial sensation.

What does the trigeminal nerve do?

The trigeminal nerve allows for sensation on different areas of the face. It also provides the means for proper motor function for mastication, for example. The trigeminal nerve splits into three branches to properly provide feeling to the face.

What is trigeminal neuralgia facial pain?

Trigeminal neuralgia facial pain is spasmodic pain felt on one or in rare cases, both sides of the face. The pain is caused by pressure on the trigeminal nerve. The pain is felt for a few seconds or minutes and returns every few hours. The pain is described as shooting or sharp in most people.

What is atypical trigeminal neuralgia?

Atypical trigeminal neuralgia is a rare form of trigeminal neuralgia. The nerve pain felt with atypical trigeminal neuralgia is harder to diagnose and can fluctuate in intensity and form. Other symptoms are involved as well, such as migraine headache and dental issues.

How rare is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is quite rare and happens to approximately 1 in every 8,000 people. It is more common in people over 50 years of age and women are affected more often than men. Having a complex form of trigeminal neuralgia is even more unusual.

Is trigeminal neuralgia fatal?

Trigeminal neuralgia is not fatal, but it can be life altering if the symptoms are severe enough. The sharp, intense pain, or the frequency of it, can be debilitating and may affect normal day-to-day functioning. However, this usually occurs in a small number of cases. Most people will find relief with medication.

How long does trigeminal neuralgia last?

The duration of trigeminal neuralgia varies greatly from person to person. In some cases, the pain will disappear on its own, while other cases are chronic. Most pain with trigeminal neuralgia is felt in recurrent episodes of a few seconds to a few minutes every few hours. The pain may come and go for years. Most patients seek definitive treatment early due to the intense pain.

What causes trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerve. Irritation or damage can be caused by a blood vessel pressing on the nerve or by certain diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. Injury to the trigeminal nerve is also possible from surgery, an accident, or a stroke.

Can root canals cause trigeminal neuralgia?

A root canal can cause trigeminal neuralgia, but it is rare. It will require injury to the inferior alveolar nerve during the root canal procedure. Treatments are available to help.

How do you test for trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia has no specific diagnosis test available. Diagnosing trigeminal neuralgia is based on symptoms. Treatment will depend on the severity of the pain.

Is trigeminal neuralgia hereditary?

Trigeminal neuralgia has currently not been found to be hereditary. It is often caused by a blood vessel pressing against the trigeminal nerve. It is most common in people with multiple sclerosis and is rarely caused by tumors. Direct injury to the nerve, such as oral surgery or stroke, can also be the cause.

What does neuralgia mean?

Neuralgia means acute spasmodic pain. It is usually used in conjunction with another term, to define where the acute spasmodic pain is felt or located. For example, trigeminal neuralgia is pain felt in the trigeminal nerve.

What is neuropathic pain?

Neuropathic pain is nerve pain due to a damaged somatosensory nervous system. It is typically described as a shooting or burning pain. It is often a chronic pain, but it may go away on its own.

What does nerve pain feel like?

Nerve pain is described differently from person to person. The most common terms used are burning, tingling, shooting, sharp, stabbing, and prickling. In addition to a different pain sensation, each person experiences a distinct pain intensity. Pain can be localized (felt near the area of nerve damage) or referred (felt somewhere else in the body).

What causes nerve pain?

Most nerve pain is caused by damage, injury, or disease. Cancer, HIV, physical injuries, inflammation, and diabetes can all be causes. It is important to find the underlying cause by describing the pain in exact detail to your doctor.

What is postherpetic neuralgia?

Postherpetic neuralgia is a form of complicated shingles. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The nerve fibers and skin are affected in people with postherpetic neuralgia. The typical rash and blisters of shingles will disappear but a burning pain remains.

Can a pinched nerve cause numbness in face?

Yes. A pinched nerve occurs when there is too much pressure applied to a nerve by surrounding nerves, veins, bone, muscle, or any tissue. The pressure on the nerve causes malfunction, which in turn will make the person feel tingling, numbness, or weakness.

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